History of Paint Township, Ross County, OH

From: The County of Ross
Henry Holcomb Bennett, Editor
Published by Selvyn A. Brant
Madison, Wis. 1902


TOPOGRAPHICALLY, this township enjoys the distinction of being the most irregular in outline in Ross county. The township was organized by the county commissioners on. March 9, 1808, from territory then embraced within the townships of Buckskin and Paxton. The house of Sanford Carders was designated as the place for holding elections.

Buckskin creek flows nearly through the township, maintaining a southerly course until it reaches the west central portion, when it makes an abrupt turn to the eastward and empties into Paint creek just over the line in Paxton township. This is the principal interior stream. Paint creek forms the entire western boundary, and about half of the southern, leaving the township line near the mouth of Buckskin creek. Other small streams are Lower Twin, which drains the eastern end of the township for a short distance, and Cliff run, Core run and Whetstone creek, which cut through the hills in the interior, and are bounded, generally, by rugged bluffs instead of the usual fertile valleys.

The choice farming land of the township lies in the valleys of Paint creek, Buckskin creek and Lower Twin. The valleys of these streams are usually wide and fertile bottom lands, which, together, comprise about one third of the township. But little level farming land is to be found along the small interior streams. The" bluffs often rise abruptly from the very banks of the creeks and terminate in broken and hilly lands, of thin clay soil. Some of these hills are still covered with natural forest frees, thinned out, of course, by the process of a hundred years' culling in the search for desirable timber for various purposes. Fruitdale is the only village in the township, and has less than a hundred population. This is a station on the Ohio Southern railroad which crosses the western end of the township from northwest to southeast, with stopping places at Humboldt and Spout Springs, but no stations. But, notwithstanding the meager trading facilities within the boundaries of Paint township, the people are well provided for in the existence of nearby towns in adjacent territory, Greenfield, Bainbridge, South Salem and Bonneville being conveniently accessible at the four cardinal points.

Paint township is a purely agricultural district, and in this respect maintains a high standard of excellence. The lands in the valleys are unsurpassed by any in the county in fertility and value, while the hill lands are well adapted to certain features of the farming industry, and rendered profitable according to the energy and intelligence employed. There is much wild scenery in Paint, which, when observed at the proper season and under favorable circumstances, will abundantly repay the strangers' visit. The old Indian Ford across the Paint was a point to Which the warrior's trails seemed to converge from all directions, and council fires burned in the adjacent camps on the margins of the stream Long years before the white man entered the territory, this was a favorite rendezvous for the Indians in passing through the valley, and doubtless was the scene of stealthy plottings against enemies of their own race, equally as often as against the white intruder.

Above the old Indian ford the traveler, following a lonely road, reaches Cliff run where it cuts it way through a precipitous gorge_ The place has been famous in county annals ever since the dead body of Mary Lowell was found there in March, 1871. It was found that she had taken strychnine, and there was also evidence of a struggle. John S. Blackburn was accused of murdering the woman. He had taken her from Greenfield to the lonely place, and afterward informed his brother in law that she was there dead. In his behalf the theory was advanced that she took the poison voluntarily, but not much credence was given to this, and on the trial his attorneys depended upon the defense of insanity. In the famous trial, which continued at Chillicothe for three weeks, beginning November 21, 1871, Judge William H. Safford presided. The State was represented by Lawrence F. Neal, prosecuting attorney, assisted by Milton H. Clark. The defense was represented by George E. Pugh and James W. Fitzgerald, of. Cincinnati, with Judge Sloane, H. L. Dickey, S. L. Wallace, and Thomas Beach, of Ross county, and W. H. Irwin, of Greenfield. The prisoner's brother, C. H. Blackburn, of Cincinnati, was also of the counsel for the defendant, though not appearing as an attorney of record. A verdict of murder in the second degree wads returned, but the defendant appealed to the supreme court from the refusal of a new trial, and secured that privilege. But before the second arraignment, a commission in lunacy, appointed under a new law, pronounced the prisoner insane, and he was for a time confined in an asylum and afterward released, when he went west.

The honors of first settlement are due to the Woodbridge family, descendants of Jelahiel Woodbridge who was one of the original members of the Ohio company, organized in Boston, March 1, 1786. He accompanied General Rufus Putnam on his first trip to the company's lands in Ohio. The descendants of Jelahiel Woodbridge, who was a colonel in the Revolutionary war, were the earliest settlers of this region and all were men of prominence. Rapid Forge Valley was originally owned by John Woodbridge, the father of Senator John Woodbridge, who succeeded to the ownership. Dudley Woodbridge was the first registrar of lands in. the Northwest Territory. On the farm of Senator Woodbridge are several caves which have been places of general resort. These are known as Marble cave, Wet cave and Dry cave. The latter has a finely arched entrance and dome, while Wet cave is so called because of the cool and refreshing waters which flow from the interior in two tiny streams, and disappear near the mouth of the cave through fissures in the rocks. The precise date when members of the Woodbridge family located in the township is not known.

Jacob Hare emigrated from Virginia and settled in the northern part of Paint township during the year 1799. He thus became one of the very earliest settlers, and probably the first to locate north of New Amsterdam. He was a man of great determination and strong will. In his native state he had allied himself with the cause of the royalists, during the Revolution, and bore to his grave the marks of his persistent Toryism. It is said that he hurrahed for Ring George when on his death bed, many years after his removal to Ohio. In illustration of his iron nerve it is told that when he found his dogs in a tussle with a large bear and he feared to use his gun lest the dogs might be injured, he sprang into the fight, armed only with a hunting knife, and despatched the ferocious animal.

Jacob and Enos Smith, brothers, sought a home in the Scioto country in 1796. They were impressed with the beauty of the Paint valley, and the availability of the water power at the falls. Being mill wrights, they were quick to see the advantage offered, and began negotiations with General Massie, who owned all the land in the vicinity. After explaining that they desired to build a mill in the new country, Massie willingly made terms with them, the conditions being that they should clear twenty acres on the south side of Paint creek for each hundred acres of unimproved land on the north side, and the Smith colony was thus assured. A further condition of the purchase allowed the Smiths to raise two crops on the land which they cleared for General Massie, and this gave them the means of a livelihood while earning their farm. The forest yielded abundant supplies of game, almost without the labor of hunting it, and thus the brothers began what seemed to them almost a holiday season, though they very energetically pursued their labors. A. few cabins were erected on the north side of Paint creek, and these, and the permanent improvements in sight, attracted the settlers.

General Massie joined with the Smiths in building a dam across Paint creek, and utilized his interest in it by erecting a saw mill on the south side, while the Smiths built a large one, for that day, on the north side. These mills were put in operation in 1798. But as General Massie did not design to enter into competition with his neighbors across the creek, his mill, after supplying his own needs and those of his neighbors who were best accommodated there, fell into disuse, and was soon washed away. The Smith mill was enlarged and improved from time to time, and became a prominent factor in the development of the country. It is stated that for fully a decade most of the corn and wheat of Highland county was brought there for grinding, and the Smith mill continued to have a monopoly of the business in its immediate vicinity, for many years afterward. The Smith settlement attracted the families of Zachàriah Taylor, and Robert Halliday, who came early in the year 1799. They remained at the falls about a year, and in 1800 bought farms of General Massie, and located as neighbors to Jacob Hare

The Smith brothers conceived the idea that conditions were favorable to the existence of a town at the falls, the mills and numerous residents being a nucleus. Another consideration was the fact that no other site as favorable could be found in all the region, with their superb water power, the prestige gained by the pioneer mills, and a rich agricultural district surrounding. Accordingly, in 1800, they employed a surveyor, and laid out a town, on a very liberal plan The streets were named in honor of the Revolutionary heroes whom the war had brought into prominence - all except two - these were named Virginia and Hudson. The founders of the town being of Dutch extraction, they patriotically named it New Amsterdam. For a time the village gave promise of a successful career. Actual streets took the place of the blazed trees left by the surveyor. Numerous cabins, quickly erected, together with the array of houses and vehicles about the mill, gave it the appearance of a bustling, thriving little village in the backwoods. A few stores and places of resort were established, and then came the climax, "A malarial district," more formidable in the mouth of public repute than in actual existence; the establishment of newer and better mills above and below, the former by Highland county people, equally zealous, and prompt to take advantage of favoring circumstances; the latter by Christian Benner, whose plant became the Mecca of the pioneer settlement, and so continued for many years; these, with the reputed unfavorable sanitary conditions, and the death knell of New Amsterdam was sounded.

John Gray came from Pennsylvania in the fall of 1799. He settled, temporarily, on Pee Pee creek, in Highland county; but early in 1800 be removed to Paint township, and settled on Twin creek. He bought a hundred acres of land from which not a tree had been cut, and he and his wife entered upon the herculean task of preparing these acres for cultivation. Two small children accompanied these parents into the wilderness; and probably, on account of these, Gray established a school at his own house, which he taught for several winters.

Other early settlers in the Twin creek neighborhood, who located there prior to 1800, or in that year, were George Brown, George Walker, Thomas Mahan, Jacob Myers and Thomas McDonald. These families, with the Grays, constituted the settlers on Paint creek, within the bounds of the township in the year 1800.

George Brown was a man of progressive spirit and wide influence among the early settlers. He took an active interest in the organization period and in the educational affairs of the infant settlement. The first building erected for school purposes within the township was on Mr. Brown's farm. This was in keeping with its surroundings, a typical pioneer affair, even to the oiled paper for window lights, the rude log hut, with its wide spreading fire place and split logs for seats. The text books and "course of study" were printed on a shingle, and many of the old settlers lived to tell in recent years of their infantile struggles in mastering orthography from this primitive "text book." John Gray taught this school, and was followed by Henry S. Fernandus and John Organ. Numerous descendants of these old pioneers, particularly of the Brown family, still live in Paint township.

Alexander Scroggs was one of the earliest settlers, and it is believed that he was a resident of the township before the opening of the Smith mill. Abraham Pepple was an early settler in the Paint creek valley, but his first residence was in Paxton township, coming into Paint township about 1805. A numerous posterity still perpetuate his name as a worthy pioneer and useful citizen. Joseph Rockhold came from Pennsylvania and located on High Bank prairie in 1797. In 1802 he removed to Cave run in Paint township where he ended his days, leaving a large estate: He was a captain in the war of 1812, and served over thirty years as justice of the peace. Noble Crawford accompanied the Massie party in 1796. He was also a Pennsylvanian, and settled on High Bank prairie below Chillicothe. About 1800 he located on Buckskin creek in Paint township, and there built a saw mill which he operated for about ten years, when he removed from the county. William S. Crawford came from Kentucky in 1805 and located on a farm in Paint township, where he died. Some of his descendants still live in the township. William Smith located in Paint township in 1804 and became a neighbor to the Hallidays, Warrticks and Irwins. They established a school in 1805 on the farm of Mr. Smith, the pupils for several years being representatives only of these families. James Caldwell, mentioned in another chapter, was the teacher in this school. John Edmiston, a prominent local politician, became a resident of the townshi about 1805, and Hugh McClelland came about the same time. Nathan Hays was a soldier in the war of 1812, and served the township in various official positions. He was a justice of the peace for six years. Thomas Edmonson, another pioneer, served as a soldier in the Indian wars and in the second war with Great Britain.

Capt. Zachary Taylor, a nephew of the famous old general, served in the war of 1812, and lived to old age, a resident of Paint township. Other prominent early settlers were Joseph Ogle, M. Benner (the first shoemaker in the township), Jesse Cox, Adam Kerr, Timothy and Daniel Hixon, Andrew Knuckles, Mr. Weller (father of Frederick Weller), Thomas Cox and Seth Sayre. Of later coming, yet classed as early settlers, were several Middleton families, and James Stinson. Dennis Ogle was a member of the legislature in 1869 and a man of prominence and influence.

Rapids Forge, a famous manufacturing establishment for many years before 1860, is described in the Industrial chapter of this work. It became, by far, the greatest industry in Ross county, and probably its volume of business was not exceeded, in its day, at any point in the Scioto valley.

Under the head of religious organizations, almost the entire his tory of Paint township may be scummed up in the general title of Methodism. The clergymen of this denomination were early on the ground, and their aggressiveness and persistent labors were rewarded in the early days with numerous organizations of that faith. But the only persisting church of that society is the one which suffered greatest reverses in its early history. Rapids Forge church was the first to have an existence in the township. It was organized in the early days of the last century, and services were held for a number of years in the homes of the members. The first public meetings were held at the house of James Havens, near the rapids. The organization of a church was effected, more with an idea of a missionary effort to temporarily benefit the spiritual condition of the community than with the thought of a permanent organization which should survive the century. Though this condition was most devoutly wished, yet the circumstances were so unfavorable that it could scarcely be expected. The settlers were isolated and few in numbers. They were generally poor and though possessing the religious fervor essential to success, the conditions were decidedly against them. But an organization of a church was effected, and it passed through the varying fortunes of its pioneer existence, meeting discouragements and temporary dissolutions until, phoenix like, there was reared a lasting organization on the ruins. In 1828 it began to assume a position of stability and prominence which was accelerated by the encouragement of the Rapids Forge industry, and recognition and support from that direction. But the organization was abandoned on several occasions, and resuscitated and reorganized under the zealous labors of successive pastorswardnlistments in the civil war finally compassed its defeat in 1865, and the doors were closed until 1872. In that year Rev. Mr. Saunders, of the Cincinnati conference, reopened the old building, and the succeeding two years he served the people regularly, receiving his support through individual contributions. It then was attached to the Bainbridge circuit for the second or third time, and became a regular preaching appointment on that circuit. In recent years the church has been more than usually successful, and the membership embraces a large number of prominent families in the community.

Bethesda church was organized by Rev. George W. Maley, the pastor in charge of the Highland circuit, in 1831. The class was formed at the house of James Middleton, consisting of twelve members, and these became the nucleus to the church of the above name. A church building was erected in 1845, and dedicated in August of that year. The church still has an existence. Locke's chapel was erected in 1845, on land donated by George Brown, a residence building being remodeled and moved to the church site. Regular services were held at this place for many years; but the property finally passed into the hands of the Wesleyan Methodists who erected Wesley chapel on the grounds.

The Methodist Protestant church was organized in the early '30's and had an existence for several years, when the place of worship was moved beyond the limits of the county. Cave Run church was organized near the Twin creek road, by a denomination known as the "New Lights." In 1845 the church passed into the hands of the "Radical Methodists," but the organization was finally abandoned, and the persisting members attached themselves to the South Salem and Bainbridge churches.

About 1840 Rev. Robert Calvert, a Dunkard preacher, began to hold public services of that denomination at the homes of different persons in the eastern part of Paint township. At the same time the New Lights and both branches of the Methodist church were holding services in the same community. As they gained strength, the Methodists built churches, and the Dunkards had the field to themselves. This denomination was prosperous, also, and in 1872 they built a neat house of worship near the Wesley chapel, in which they have since held their services.

Paint township has today within her borders nine excellent schools, in charge of a corps of specially trained instructors, who receive compensation according to their attainments and efficiency. No township in the county has a better system of public schools or a more apprecitve class of patrons.

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